South America Getting Easier To Operate To, But Pitfalls Remain

 - August 12, 2013, 9:00 AM
Rockwell Collins’s Ascend flight information solutions help flight planners to assist operators to navigate the sometimes confusing and often changing aviation rules and regulations of various countries. The company’s flight operations center in Houston is the heart of its flight-planning program.

“There are always challenges to flying internationally,” said Tim Bartholomew, manager of international trip support for Rockwell Collins Ascend Flight Information Solutions (Stand 2007). And while those challenges may change from one day to the next, he and others see the process slowly becoming more and more efficient.

For years, business aviation operators have been flying into three main airports in Buenos Aires, Argentina. But this is no longer possible because two of them have been closed to business aviation.

The good news is that Jorge Newbery Aeroparque (Buenos Aires Aeroparque), the most popular and closest to the city center, remains open to business aviation. On the other hand, customs has become a bit more demanding, requiring that all passenger baggage, including those golf clubs you used in Toluca, has to be offloaded and taken to the customs area. Officials then inspect the aircraft and seal it, and no one is allowed back aboard without special arrangements, said Bartholomew. “It’s a drug enforcement issue,” he added.

Also in Argentina, in the past year the country has required that U.S. citizens pre-pay a reciprocity fee through the Internet and show a receipt upon arrival.

Cabotage and Parking

The matter of cabotage, or the right to transport passengers and/or goods from point to point within a country, is generally restricted to aircraft registered in that country. For the most part, this is applied to commercial airline operators, but in a few countries, it can be a gray area.

According to Augusto Nunes, supervisor of operations in São Paulo for Universal Weather & Aviation (Stand 1003), the rules of cabotage in Brazil are set by ANAC (Agência Nacional de Aviação Civil–Stand 5014). However, depending on the point of entry, and who is on duty on any particular day, cabotage may be interpreted differently to include business and private jets. His advice is to check in advance and be prepared.

Also in Brazil, cautioned Bartholomew, most of the parking spots at the three main São Paulo airports have been co-opted by local air carriers. At the Aeroporto Internacional de São Paulo (Guarulhos), for example, space is so limited that business aircraft are frequently parked on the military side of the field. He also noted there is an issue of hours at Presidente Juscellino Kubitschek Aeroporto Internacional de Brasília. Customs and immigration services there have set hours, and airline arrivals have priority, “so it’s best to time an arrival during a typical lull in commercial arrivals,” he said. Also the customs and immigration offices are closed during weekends, making advance arrangements a necessity.

Bartholomew also pointed out that the privatization of Juscellino Internacional in Brasilia has resulted in a reduction in hours for some services. For example, the administrative office for payment of tariffs is no longer open on the weekend and advance arrangements must be made.

The problem is not endemic to Brazil. Flight plan changes are not particularly welcome in Peru, either. Changes are supposed to be filed three or four days in advance, and, if they’re not, “they are not inclined to be helpful, or may simply not be available,” said Universal’s manager for permit services John McClelland.

Rockwell Collins (Stand 2007) has an agent in Peru through whom the trip planner works, “so our customers don’t have a problem. So far we’ve never had to cancel or delay because we couldn’t get a Peruvian permit.”

In the past, travel to Venezuela was “very complicated” and the process of applying for a landing permit had to be started as much as 30 days in advance. “They’ve removed a lot of those barriers,” said Bartholomew. “For example, if you are staying less than 72 hours, no landing permit is required.”

On the other hand, Venezuelan aviation officials continue to check the records of any aircraft submitting an overflight request, going back a decade or more. If they find an overflight for which the overflight fee was not paid, they will not issue a new permit or allow the overfight until the outstanding fee is paid. As a result, said Bartholomew, “with all of our flights, we check with the Venezuelan government in advance to ensure there is no outstanding overflight fee.”

Handling the World Cup

Looking forward, the prestigious World Cup football tournament will be held in Brazil next year, June 12 to July 1, and if the recent Confederation Cup tournament in June is an accurate preview, business aviation will be fighting for space.

“They closed all major airports to general aviation, and those airplanes that were allowed to land were allowed from one to three hours on the ground,” said Universal’s Nunes. “The only way a slot would be opened up for business aircraft was for FIFA [Fédération Internationale de Football Association] organizers to release one of their slots for us,” he said. An estimated 500,000 fans from all over the world are expected to descend on Brazil for next year’s event. “If we have the same scenario repeated for the World Cup next year, it’s going to be very complicated,” concluded Nunes.

If there is a continuing problem with flying into and out of Latin America, it remains that of endemic corruption on the part of minor officials. There are crews, admitted one trip handler, who continue to find it effective to slip a “twenty” [dollars], or even a “hundred,” into a passport just to facilitate the process. However, added Universal senior vice president Bobby Butler, “This is considered a bribe at the local level, and it is a corrosive and risky behavior.” It is also something Universal has been bringing to the attention of U.S. officials and officials in other countries, “We are making an effort to drive this practice out of our industry. It’s a behavior we must change.”

In general, say trip handlers, regulations governing entry into Latin American countries has become more relaxed as those economies continue to grow and more and more businessmen and tourists find reasons to invest there or just lie in the sun and enjoy the culture.

“We are seeing an increase in large-cabin aircraft traveling to Latin America,” said Bartholomew, “driven in part by the growth of a global economy and the need for long-range business jets.”

And the two countries that seem to be drawing the most traffic,” added Universal’s Abel Perez, master trip owner, “are Colombia and Brazil.”

Even tiny Panama, rapidly becoming a financial center for Central America, is becoming a business aviation magnet, said Universal’s permits manager John McClelland. “They’ve recently begun allowing one main landing permit and one internal permit that allows multiple stops. And that’s a good thing.”